Disciples: Liberation – Closed Beta Preview
I want to start this preview by saying I have no personal history with the Disciples franchise. It always struck me as another CRPG and I had more than enough to keep me busy with Pillars, Divinity and (going back) Baulder’s Gate. That is no slight on the Disciples games of the past, just simply the fact I never found time to fit it into my gaming schedule. I say this all because I want to make it clear, I am coming at this with fresh eyes. I have seen a lot of commentary on the internet that Liberation doesn’t look like a Disciples game, but I can’t comment on that. All I can do is talk about what I have seen and played and not how it compares to past titles.
Ok, now that is out of the way let’s get to the meat of things. Disciples: Liberation is shaping up to be a good, if not great, entry in the CRPG genre. The game comes across as something of a mix of a few different sub-genres. There are a lot of elements from the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise with base building, turn-based hex combat with armies, treasure hunting and taking control of gold mines and lumber mills. But where things differ from that venerable series is that everything apart from the combat is done in real time. Exploration, interacting with NPCs and questing is all done in real-time like a more traditional CRPG. It is an interesting mix as someone who played a lot of the Heroes of Might and Magic games back in the day and one that has pulled me into the world that Liberation is presenting.
The game starts as a bit of a slow burn and if I am honest it took me a good couple of hours before I could see how the game works and what it is trying to do. This slow intro may put some people off but it is worth persisting through because once it clicks, the game becomes super addictive. On more than one occasion I looked up at my clock to see the time was well past midnight and I really needed to get to bed. I think the main reason for my addiction is for the combat. Initially, things seem simple and without depth, but as the game progresses, new units are unlocked, new spells are learned and new tactics are discovered. There is great joy in positioning your units in just the right way to trap enemies. Using the environment and various abilities to create an ambush situation is the key to success and balancing the need to attack and defend seems to be more important here than in other titles with similar combat systems.
As far as the story goes I am not going to go into too much detail as this is a preview and I don’t want to spoil anything, but so far it is fairly standard high-fantasy fare. I found getting to know all the different factions, races and locations quite daunting, possibly because I have never played a Disciples game previously. There is a lot of jargon and lore thrown at players in a very short time so it can get confusing. Once again, after a few hours, I felt fairly comfortable in understanding what the in-game characters were talking about but I still wouldn’t like to take a written test on the lore.
The high-fantasy theme runs into the look of the game with a very Tolkein-inspired world to explore. It isn’t a groundbreaking look, sticking to fantasy tropes for the most part, but it is a welcoming world. Where the artists have strayed from the Tolkien tradition is in the unit design. There are some fantastic units in the different factions. Some feel like they were inspired by Warhammer while others have a touch of Lovecraft. The look of these units has been a real highlight of my time with the game so far.
As I approach the end of my time with the closed beta I find myself wanting to play more. Initially, I felt the game was just going to be a fairly generic title with little to entice players. But as I progressed and the game let me in on more and more of its secrets it began to take a hold of me, dragging me into the world. I do have some worries about the story and how the combat will hold up over the length of a full game, but for now, I am excited about the prospect of the full release. I don’t know if this is anything like previous Disciples titles, but I can say it is impressing this newcomer to the franchise.
Disciples: Liberation is coming to PC, Xbox One/S and PS4/5 on the 21st of October 2021.